ISKCON Law & Guru Aparadha

by Puru Das Adhikari

If you want to enjoy the sex life you must have the proximity of the women, Otherwise not! If you want to understand who is God, and who is Guru, you must have the krpa, (mercy) of the Guru, otherwise not!!! (a quote from Sri Bhakti-Kumuda Santa Maharaj, 85 year old 74 year naistikha brahmacari, sannyasa disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, my beloved spiritual uncle and dear god brother of my beloved gurdeva. He was very kind upon me during my recent visit to Jagannatha Puri. He fed me, offered me shelter at His lotus feet and welcomed me as a family member of our Gaudiya Vaisnava line. He did not see my western birth or rearing as any impediment to my spiritual life. He spoke fondly of his one preaching tour in Europe, some 25 years ago and showed me such wonderful Vaisnava courtesy that I will always remember his mercy and divine association.

So how do we understand the actions of an acarya? How do we reconcile his independence and innovativeness. How do we understand time and circumstance adjustments that make his matha , on the surface appear different or "un bona fide" to a casual or criticial observer? One should remember that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was also criticised for making "changes" in his practical applications of Krsna Consciousness when he established the Gaudiya Matha, initiated Tridandi sannyasis, not babajis, and made other very extraordinary adjustments to facilitate preaching. For more details about this point you can consult the recent booklet printed by His Holiness Tripurari Swami or purchase a copy of the beautiful book " Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakur" from Mandala Publishing:

The first point is that we are not in the position as a disciple to judge an acarya, or his behavior.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj has written in "Sri Guru and His Grace": His Divine Grace's realizations about guru tattva not only answer spurious allegations about Srila Prabhupada's time and circumstance adjustments for preaching Krsna Consciousness in western Countires, but also place the recent gbc inquisition of the ritvik camp in Sri Dhama Mayapura in a Perspective from much higher consciousness. From Chapter Eight, "Seperation from Sri Guru" of " Sri Guru and His Grace:"

Guru: More than God

To a disciple, his guru's position is Supreme, even more than God. This is said in the scriptures.

The guru is more near and dear to us than God Himself. God has many things to deal with, but guru is concerned only with my welfare. The guru's position is more helpful to the disciple than God. If within your society, you want a natural growth of the disciple's regard for the guru and the Absolute Truth, such room must be allowed in your constitution, if the constitution is to live at all.

Law is not everything. The law of your society should be accommodating to nurture divine sentiment, otherwise it is no law. Law should promote faith. Sastra's jurisdiction is limited. It is meant only to promote love, and when love comes, it will be free; smooth, harmonious working is possible only in the area of love. Srila Rupa Goswami says that vaidhi-bhakti, devotion under the guidance of sastra, or laws and rules, is helpful only to a certain extent. It will help the inner awakening of love and affection and then retire. Law will retire, giving room to the spontaneous flow of love. Law is necessary, especially in the lower stages, but it should make room for free movement in the relationship. Freedom is the highest thing. Free service is raga-marga, and that is service proper, not service that is regulated and coerced and pressed by law. That is not service. Our aim is Vrndavana. So, we want free service. Without freedom, service is not valuable. Forced labor is no labor; a labor of love is required. And that is the thing for which all are out. Let us essentially think that we are all out not only for the constitution, but the thing for which the constitution has been made; we are out for that high object of life: divine love. The constitution should promote that aim. With this feeling we should go on. Newcomers are coming with their faith, and their faith should be encouraged and also adjusted so that the faith of one person may not disturb another.

Messiahs of Free Faith

No law should go to limit or control the acarya, for then the sraddha of the disciple will vanish, and all will be a mechanized machine. Rather the whole thing will be reduced to matter. We are the messiahs of developing free internal faith in the Lord. Faith, that is to be nurtured. That sort of creeper should be planted in the garden of the heart and watered and nourished. The very characteristic of faith must not be lost by infringement, by over-pressure of the laws and rules. The free flow of the heart must be kept. The movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is more of heart than of intellect. We should always consider this. The intellect must not check the free flow of the heart. We must always remember that. Free love and free faith are the only things, the most valuable things for which we have come out of our own house and joined the mission. This purity of purpose should always be kept intact. Of course, some help from law and regulation is necessary, but not so much as to check the growth of our vitality. We must promote vitality. The real spirit, the real purpose of the mission should be given first hand. And lenient dealings are necessary amongst you. It is said, "If the tongue is cut by the tooth, should I pull out the tooth?" You are one organic whole; your dealings should not be such that the forgiveness of love is forgotten. The giving of love will conquer more than the giving of law. What is the need of so much formality and fashion, when ultimately we are all servants of the Lord?

The acarya faces two dangers. The first is partiality. Partiality means full freedom with his disciples. This relationship is also more attractive to him. The second danger is deviation. So, deviation and partiality-these two things can take down the acarya. These are the two enemies of an acarya. And one who takes that position must be particularly careful about these things. The position of an acarya is dangerous. It is full of temptations. Therefore, a strong, sincere indomitable desire for the upper aspirations of Krsna consciousness is the indispensable necessity in an acarya.

Otherwise, he can't maintain his position. He will go down. He has become master and will think, "I am the master of all I survey." In a particular circle, he is monarch. And monarchy can bring madness. That is a great temptation. If one is not sufficiently conscious of this fact, he will not be able to maintain his position. For one who has monarchy over men and money, it is very difficult to maintain a position as a servitor. The ego of mastership which is generally found within all of us comes to attack the guru. After all, we are wandering in the land of exploitation. Therefore, we should be very wakeful and scrutinizing in our self analysis. The general symptom of health is that the more one will go up, the more he will think, "I am going down." This indirect method of measurement may be applied to measure our internal advancement. Externally one may maintain a superior position, but internally he should always be thinking, "O my Lord! I am in want. Give more grace to me! I can't maintain my position."

Money, Women and Fame

It is a great misfortune if a Vaisnava guru strays from the line. It is rare, but occasionally it may be found. Generally the symptoms of deviation fall into three different classes: kanaka, kamini, and pratistha: money, women, and reputation. First, a guru loses his attraction for his own guru and sastra-upadesa the advice of the sastra. Then, what he previously expressed, quoting the scriptures and the words of his own guru, gradually becomes absent in him. His attraction for the higher thing fades. That is pratistha, prestige. Kanaka, kamini, pratistha: money, women, and name and fame-these are the three tests to be put everywhere to see whether one is a sadhu or not, or what degree of sadhu he is. The first thing is deviation from his higher gurus. That should be detected. That is pratistha, pride.

Then, he will show more tendency to amass money and not to spend it. Money may be collected, but that must be distributed for the service of the sampradaya, for the service of the Vaisnavas.

But amassing money-this is the second sign of deviation. The third is attraction towards the ladies.

Of course, he may come in connection with money and women and also with the honor from his disciples. That is also necessary, but only for the purpose of divine object, divine aim, not for himself. But if we can detect that he is utilizing all these things for his personal interest and not for the cause of the sampradaya, then we should be careful.

In the beginning, we may neglect some occasional problems; some instances of these kinds of deviations may be ignored. But if we find that they are becoming more prevalent, then we must inspect the situation carefully. And we are to bring it to persons similar to my position. And after consultation, we can take the matter to higher sources and consult other acaryas who are reliable.

When we find that what appeared to us first in a small way is real, injurious, and of a big magnitude, and that our spiritual master is going down, then we must act to save ourselves. We must try to take steps which may save us from that epidemic contamination. We must try to save ourselves. And we must also try to save others who might fall prey to the same exploitation as us. That must be done in all sincerity. There is the possibility; it is mentioned in the sastras and so many practical examples are also there. So, we must not make progress in a slumber, but we must go forward with our eyes always opened."

So it is very clear who has deviated from the param para and who has not. Specific criticisms of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada do not even merit acknowledgement. You can judge a thing By its result. Srila Prabhupada refrained from criticising his god brothers by name in his books. Things he may have said to protect his disciples from any god brother interference are another matter. The lion springs and attacks to protect its innocent cubs. Don't fault an acarya for acting like one.

Asarera name ihan nahi pryojana
Bheda janibare kari ekatra ganana

"There is no need to name those who are useless. I have mentioned them only to distinguish them from the useful devotees." (Cc. Adi lila Ch. 12 Text 11)

Dhana-rasi mape yaiche patna sahite Pascate patna udana samskara karite

Paddy is mixed with straw at first, and one must fan it to separate the paddy from the straw.

(Cc. Adi lila Ch. 12 Text 12)


This example given by Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami is very appropriate. In the case of the Gaudiya Math members, one can apply a similar process. There are many disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but to judge who is actually his disciple, to divide the useful from the usless, one must measure the activities of such disciples in executing the will of the spiritual master. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura tried his best to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to countries outside India. When he was present he patronized the disciples to go outside India to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but they were unsuccessful because within their minds they were not actually serious about preaching His cult in foreign countries; they simply wanted to take credit for having gone to foreign lands and utilize this recognition in India by advertising themselves as repatriated preachers. MANY svamis have adopted this hypocritical means of preaching for the last eighty years or more, but no one could preach the real cult of Krsna consciousness all over the world. They merely came back to India falsely advertising that they had converted all the foreigners to the ideas of Vedanta or Krsna consciousness,, and then they collected funds in India and lived satisfied lives of material comfort. As one fans paddy to separate the real paddy from useless straw, by accepting the criterion recommended by Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami one can very easily understand who is a genuine world-preacher and who is useless." (Cc. Adi lila Ch. 12 Text 12 Purport)

It is interesting to note that in the earlier purport for text 8 Srila Prabhupad wrote:

"In the beginning,during the presence of Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivjakacarya Astottarra-sata Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsvati Thakura Prabhupada, all the disciples worked in agreement; but just after his disappearance, they disagreed. ONE PARTY STRICTLY FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS OF BHAKTISIDDHANTA SARASVATI THAKURA, BUT ANOTHER GROUP CREATED THEIR OWN CONCOCTION ABOUT EXECUTING HIS DESIRES. . . . (please consult the entire purport on your own)

"Despite the spritual master's order to form a governing body and execute the missionary activities of the Gaudiya Matha, the two unauthorized factions began litigation that is still going on after forty years with no decision. THEREFORE WE DO NOT BEONG TO ANY FACTION. But because the two parties busy dividing the material assets of the Gaudiya Math institution, stopped the preaching work, we took up the mission of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and Bhaktivinoda Thakura to preach the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world, under the protection of the predecesor acaryas, and we find that our humble attempt has been successful . We followed the principles especially explained by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, it is the duty of a disciple to follow strictly the orders of his spiritual master. The secret of success in advancement in spiritual life is the firm faith of the disciple in the orders of his spiritual master. The Vedas confirm this:

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah

"To one who has stauch faith in the words of the spiritual master and the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the secret of Godhead the secret of success in Vedic knowledge is revealed. . . ." (Cc. Adi lila Ch. 12, text 8 purport)

If you have no faith in Srila Prabhupada and what he has written then that is your misfortune. If you do not understand the entirety of our line's history then that is your ignorance. Try to educate yourself. So many conditioned souls reject the words and instructions of the acaryas. At least they keep their observations to themselves. We are urged by Srila Rupa Goswami in his Bhakti Rasamrta Sindu not to preach the glories of the holy name to the faithless. The acaryas are so merciful that they preach and sometimes even initiate jiva souls who have not much faith in them. They take great risk to accept such followers and it behooves anyone to cast any doubt on the character, motive, judgements or behavior of such stellar Vaisanvas. He seals his fate and condemns himself to the lower nether regions of this universe.

One final note regarding Srila Prabhupada's dear god brother Srila Bon Mahara from my godbrother His Holiness Narasingha Maharaj. Though otherwise concluded by someone who disrespects him, he (Naarasingha Maharaj)does have the right, and deserves the intelligent scrutiny of other devotees to make observations about this great devotee god brother of Srila Prabhupada. I detect no mention that he was "benedicting Bon Maharaj," as was eronniously suggestested in Another vnn re- written article, or thought his (Narsingha Maharaj's) presence there (with Bon Maharaj)was anything but the arrangement of the divine will of providence. I believe he was there also so we can read his remarks today, some years removed from actual events and get a clearer perspective about guru god brother relationships.

N.B. Since I wrote ISKCONitis, His Holiness Narasingha Maharaj has contacted me from S. India and I would like to present his remarks about the incident mis represented formerly on VNN. His insight is valuable for everyone to understand the higher principle of how god brothers should learn to interact with each other.(Puru Das Adhikari) (letter to Puru Das Feb. 4, l999) Dandavats Uncle, When I sat in front of Vana Maharaja (Bon Maharaja) he was lying on his bed (he passed away a short time later). Not only did Bon Maharaja "cry profusely and begged for forgiveness for causing any difficulties for our Prabhupada." but he also said in a most profound way that, "Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja has pleased Srila Prabhupada Saraswati Thakura more than anyone else." It was a heart felt appreciation and I saw that beneath everything (the differences between two Godbrothers) that Bon Maharaja had great love and respect for our Guru Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada). I went away thinking that Srila Prabhupada had sent me there so that I could see first hand what appreciation and affection Bon Maharaja actually had for him (Srila Prabhupada).

Before leaving this mundane world our Guru Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada) harmonized all the differences that he had with his Godbrothers in a most humble and genuine Vaishnava way. I personally saw Bon Maharaja do the same thing and I respect him greatly for that. It was a great lesson in humility for me to see the genuine Vaishnava nature of Bon Maharaja being expressed so humbly and sincerely.

There are no atheists in the foxholes and there are no enemies among Godbrothers when Krishna informs us that our time in this world is over.

At that time one only remembers one's love for his Guru and the love and affection for one's Guru which the Godbrothers also have. Whatever transpires between Godbrothers is relative and the disciples actually have no scope to enter into those affairs especially when mana (anger) or dissagreement is manifest.

Maharaj also pointed out that it is a great mistake to "try to enter into such matters" and " ultimately only critize the Godbrothers of Srila Prabhupada. The author of the offensive VNN article, " is criticizing Srila Prabhupada, the Godbrother of his Guru (Bon Maharaja). Two wrongs do not make a right. He has been reduced to the level of his so-called enemies." Narasingha Maharaj's letter to me continues: "It was indeed a very intense moment for me to be with Bon Maharaja. He was a grand personality.

In this world we have to learn to live with so much dissappointment. Our only real solace is the Holy Name and the company and affections of higher Vaishnavas.

Feel free to use anything that I have said above in your preaching.

(end letter) Maharaj also wrote to me that he did not take personal offense at nasty remarks made about himself but he wrote:

"I do feel grieved to read his numerous offensive remarks about Srila Prabhupada who had personally showed him so much personal affection..."

If I may observe, the present day iskcon is not the ISKCON that His Divine Grace established. Present day ecclesiastical oriented gbc dominated iskcon has as much to do with Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta as the Catholic Church and Christian theology has to do with Lord Jesus. Leave it at that and let them try to solve their problems without our help or interference. They are clearly unwilling to take advise or assistance from Srila Prabhupada's disciples and/or higher Vaisnava's from the Gaudiya Math or the Gaudiya Vedanta Samhiti.

So let them stumble along as they will thinking they are the keepers of the sampradaya, when they are actually not even really part of it any longer.

If you have no faith in your guru and give him up then keep it a private matter and do not spew your disatisfaction with Him all over the internet. A fool becomes conspicuous when he opens his mouth and a guru tyagi and vasisnava aparadhi, pasandhi becomes apparent when he criticizes his former harinama gurudeva in a public forum Here is one example of proper viasnava behavior from our Gaudiya history. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had substantial, not superficial, philosophical differences with his diksa guru, Bipin Goswami. The Thakura chose not to express them publicly at Medinapura in the l930's and sent Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in his stead. His paper (available in Bengali) Brahmanas and Vaisnavas clearly establishes the lack of importance of birth, but rather brahman by qualification in kali yuga. It also clearly establishes the superior spiritual position of a Vaisnava over someone "born brahmana." and establishes the mood of Caitanya Mahaprabhus' mercy upon all fallen souls in this age, no matter how they chant the maha mantra, in one or two sections.

"O my Lord! Your Holy Name alone can render benediction upon the living beings, and therefore You have hundreds and millions of Names, like Krishna, Govinda, etc. In these transcendental Names You have invested all Your transcendental energies, and THERE IS NO HARD AND FAST RULE FOR CHANTING THESE HOLY NAMES. O My Lord! You have so kindly made approach to You easy by Your Holy Names, but unfortunate as I am, I have no attraction for Them.

(Sikastakam #2 ,from "The Teachings of Lord Caitanya, p. XXXVIII)

All glories to all the real disciples of all the acaryas in our param para line.

"There is no need to name whose who are useless. I have mentioned them only to distinguish them from the useful devotees.

Paddy is mixed with straw at first, and one must fan it to separate the paddy from the straw." (C. Adi lila Chapter 12, Texts 1l, 12)

Om tat Sat.

Your servant,
Puru Das Adhikari

[Originally published 02/14/99 on VNN]

[BVML Home Page] Sripad Puru Das Prabhu Page

Sripad Puru Das
Prabhu Page